All the experts accept that smoking is bad for pregnant mothers and their babies, but what is the advice about switching to vaping?
All the experts accept that smoking is bad for pregnant mothers and their babies, but what is the advice about switching to vaping? Neonatal and maternal mortality, cot death and underweight babies, smoking is the leading preventable cause and yet mothers-to-be struggle to quit. Experts are now saying that if they can’t stop using tobacco, women should be supported to switch to vaping.
Why is stopping smoking so difficult during pregnancy?
Research has shown that nicotine is broken down far faster in the body of a pregnant woman. Consequently, the drive to smoke increases in order to replace it.
What help was previously offered to pregnant women?
The UK’s NHS says: “All pregnant women will be offered an electronic carbon monoxide test at their antenatal appointments. Any woman referred for specialist advice to quit will get it.”
Are smoking rates in pregnant women an issue in the UK?
Yes, unfortunately. While the number of women still smoking at the time of delivery has decreased over time, the rate of decline has stalled recently according to statistics from The Nuffield Trust.
Could vaping be a good alternative for pregnant women?
It has been recognised by experts that vaping does not contain the cocktail of harmful substances found in tobacco and is at least 95% safer than smoking.
Health Organisation BUPA says: “As there are fewer ingredients in e-cigarettes, and at much lower levels, scientists agree vaping, or using other nicotine replacement therapies, is safer than smoking during pregnancy. However, although there’s no evidence to suggest nicotine harms unborn babies”.
Harm reduction expert Professor Linda Bauld has noted in a conference presentation: “All the evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking and current smokers should not be discouraged from using them. Our approach to e-cigarettes in pregnancy is built on this consensus.”
But doesn’t the nicotine in e-liquid pose a problem?
A large-scale study called The SNAP Trial looked at how nicotine use affected birth outcomes. It noted that women are currently offered traditional nicotine replacement therapy products (NRT) such as patches, sprays, and gum.
The study found that women using these nicotine products gave birth to infants with normal birth weight and did not impact birth survival rates.
Professor Bauld commented: “We do not have evidence that nicotine use alone, separate from tobacco, is harmful in pregnancy. The large SNAP trial found that young children whose mothers had used nicotine replacement therapy after stopping smoking in pregnancy had normal development up to two years old.”
Why don’t more women use NRT products then?
Experts believe that NRT simply doesn’t deliver sufficient nicotine due to the rapidity it is broken down in the body.
So, what do experts recommend?
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group made up of members from the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the voluntary sector and university researchers, said in its report that pregnant women should be “supported to use e-cigarettes if that is their preferred way to quit.”
Professor Linda Bauld believes: “We can be relatively confident that if the choice is between continued smoking and use of an e-cigarette (‘vaping’) then vaping is the safer option”.